A proposed framework by the Centre for regulating e-waste in India has upset a key link of India’s electronic waste collection system and threatens the livelihood of thousands of people.
GS III- Science and Technology
Dimensions of the Article:
- About Draft Notification for Electronic Waste Management
- What is the controversy now?
- What is Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)?
- What is e-waste?
- e-Waste recycling in India
- Legislation related to e-waste recycling in India
About Draft Notification for Electronic Waste Management
Coverage for Electronics:
- A wide range of electronic goods, including laptops, landline and mobile phones, cameras, recorders, music systems, microwaves, refrigerators and medical equipment have been specified in the notification.
Target for E-Waste Collection:
- Consumer goods companies and makers of electronics goods have to ensure at least 60% of their electronic waste is collected and recycled by 2023 with targets to increase them to 70% and 80% in 2024 and 2025, respectively.
- Companies will have to register on an online portal and specify their annual production and e-waste collection targets.
- The rules bring into effect a system of trading in certificates, akin to carbon credits, that will allow companies to temporarily bridge shortfalls.
- The rules lay out a system of companies securing Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) certificates.
- These certificates certify the quantity of e-waste collected and recycled in a particular year by a company and an organisation may sell surplus quantities to another company to help it meet its obligations.
Focus on Circular Economy:
- New Rules emphasizes on the EPR, recycling and trading.
- This follows from the government’s objective to promote a Circular Economy.
- Companies that don’t meet their annual targets will have to pay a fine or an ‘environmental compensation’ but the draft doesn’t specify the quantum of these fines.
- The CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) will oversee the overall implementation of these regulations.
State Governments’ Responsibilities:
- The State governments have been entrusted with the responsibility of earmarking industrial space for e-waste dismantling and recycling facilities, undertaking industrial skill development and establishing measures for protecting the health and safety of workers engaged in the dismantling and recycling facilities for e-waste.
What is the controversy now?
- In May, the Ministry published a draft notification that eliminates PROs and dismantlers and transfers complete duty for recycling to authorized recyclers.
- There are very few authorised recyclers in India.
- Recyclers will source a quantity of waste, recycle them and generate electronic certificates.
- Companies can buy these certificates equivalent to their annual committed target and thus do not have to be involved with engaging the PROs and dismantlers.
- Dismantling a fledgling system was detrimental to the future of e-waste management in India.
What is Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)?
- Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is the term used to describe a producer’s responsibility to manage a product’s plastic packaging in an environmentally sound manner until the end of its useful life.
- The Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 and the E-Waste Management and Handling Rules, 2011 were the rules that first implemented EPR in India.
- However, because the majority of businesses did not have an internal recycling department, Producer Responsibility Organizations, a network of government-registered businesses, emerged (PRO).
How PROs work?
- PROs act as an intermediary between manufacturers and formal recycling
- They are (expected to be) technologically equipped to recycle end-of-life electronic goods safely and efficiently.
- The PROs typically bid for contracts from companies and arrange for specified quantities of goods to be recycled.
- They provide companies certified proof of recycling that they then maintain as part of their records. Several PROs work on consumer awareness and enable a supply chain for recycled goods.
What is e-waste?
- E-waste is a popular, informal name for electronic products nearing the end of their “useful life.” Computers, televisions, VCRs, stereos, copiers, and fax machines are common electronic products. Many of these products can be reused, refurbished, or recycled.
- There is no clear definition for e-waste; for instance whether or not items like microwave ovens and other similar “appliances” should be grouped into the category has not been established.
Is e-waste dangerous?
- Electronic scrap components, such as CPUs, contain potentially harmful materials such as lead, cadmium, beryllium, or brominated flame retardants.
- Recycling and disposal of e-waste may involve significant risk to health of workers and their communities.
UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 talks of the necessity to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”. Referring to discarded electronic devices, this means achieving ecologically acceptable management throughout their life cycle, as well as reducing the release of poisons into the atmosphere, water and soil to minimise their negative impact on health and the environment.
e-Waste recycling in India
- While e-waste recycling is a source of income for many people in India, it also poses numerous health and environmental risks.
- More than 95% of India’s e-waste is illegally recycled by informal waste pickers called kabadiwalas or raddiwalas.
- These workers operate independently, outside of any formal organization which makes enforcing e-waste regulations difficult-to-impossible.
- Recyclers often rely on rudimentary recycling techniques that can release toxic pollutants into the surrounding area.
- The release of toxic pollutants associated with crude e-waste recycling can have far reaching, irreversible consequences.
- A report by the Union Environment Ministry in 2018 found that many of India’s e-waste recyclers weren’t recycling waste at all. While some were storing it in hazardous conditions, many didn’t even have the capacity to handle such waste.
Legislation related to e-waste recycling in India
- The Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) is primarily responsible for regulations regarding electronic waste. Additionally, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) produce implementation procedures to ensure proper management of rules set forth by the MoEFCC.
E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011
- Prior to the enactment of the E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011; e-waste was covered under the Hazardous Waste Management (HWM) Rules. Under the Environmental Protection Act 1986.
- It made manufacturers, dealers, refurbishers and Producer Responsibility Organizations (PRO) liable for safe disposal of electronic goods.
E-Waste Management Rules, 2016
- The E-Waste Management Rules, 2016 have recently been amended by the Centre, to facilitate and effectively implement the environmentally sound management of e-waste in India.
- These amendments have been made with the objective of channelizing the e-waste generated in the country towards authorized dismantlers and recyclers in order to further formalize the e-waste recycling sector.
- By way of revised targets and monitoring under the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), effective and improved management of e-waste would be ensured.
-Source: The Hindu